The long Thanksgiving weekend was another winning one for the books, and we were cheering the results in the Tuley’s Takes home office.
Now someone on Twitter will say it sounds like I take joy in saying the house won and that I’m against bettors. I take offense to that because I’ve always tried to be an advocate for bettors, pushing for legalization, promoting any and all contests as opportunities for the gambling public and wanting fair odds for bettors. However, since I’m a self-proclaimed dog-or-pass bettor myself and a contrarian, I usually find myself on the side the house needs, so, yes, I’m usually happy when the books win and the majority of bettors lose — just not those who follow along. My goal here is to help bettors find live underdogs to bet — or at least to get you to pass on some overvalued favorites and make everyone sharper, more selective overall bettors.
This extends to other sports as well. I was 5-0 ATS on the VSiN CFB Best Bets last week with all underdogs, though I haven’t been bragging too much about that as I’m below .500 at 26-32-2 ATS on the season. If you like following the hot handicapper, my plays this week are Louisiana + 2.5 over Appalachian State, South Carolina + 11.5 over Kentucky, Oregon State + 11.5 over Utah, Fresno State + 7.5 over Nevada and South Alabama + 4.5 over Troy. My other leans (which can be seen as a warning against laying the points with the overpriced favorites) are Liberty + 7 vs. Coastal Carolina and Indiana + 14 vs. Wisconsin.
Underdogs have been the way to go in the NFL as well, as they’re 10-5 ATS in Week 12 heading into Wednesday’s Ravens-Steelers game and 96-74-2 ATS (56.5%) on the season with four games graded as closing pick’-em. I went 3-2 with most of my contest entries in a week when the majority of contestants had losing weeks again, though our ATS best bets in this column actually went just .500 at 3-3. However, we’re still 46-38 (54.8%) on the season in Tuley’s Takes, and that doesn’t include our weekly recommended teaser plays that have kept us profitable all season and went 4-1 again last week with the Rams being the lone loser.
So let’s get to NFL Week 13, but only after going over the final game of Week 12 that’s being played Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. EST. Per usual, I’ll give my takes on each game. Even if I don’t have an opinion that I think warrants a bet, I’ll include my “pool plays,” in which I give my level of confidence for SU & ATS contests, especially for those who have to pick every game.
Ravens at Steelers (-10)
We get an unprecedented Wednesday afternoon NFL game (hopefully) to wrap up Week 12 after multiple COVID-related postponements. The advance line on this game was Steelers -2.5 before moving to Steelers -4. After Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was ruled out, it was reposted at -7.5 and is now all the way up to -10. That’s a gross overadjustment in my mind. Yes, I know there have been more than a dozen positive tests in Baltimore, but let me remind you that in Week 17 last year, the Ravens rested most of their starters, including Jackson, who was replaced by Robert Griffin III, because they had nothing to play for and won 28-10 against this same Steelers team that needed a win to make the playoffs. Everyone thought it was a given that the Steelers would beat the Ravens backups last year, but the Ravens have a lot of pride, and I believe we’ll see the same thing with the available Baltimore players stepping up. They might not win again, but we’ll trust they stay within a touchdown and a field goal. Best Bet: Ravens + 10 (pool play: not applicable as all Week 12 pools are closed).
Lions at Bears (-3)
You have to plug your nose to bet or watch this game the way these teams have been playing. The Bears have lost five straight but still have a shot at the playoffs. The Lions are playing their first game after coach Matt Patricia was finally fired, so I would tend to lean toward them as we often see teams get at least a short-term boost after a coaching change. The + 3 is too short for me to back the Lions, but I will start my teaser portfolio here and combine with this week’s other advantage teasers that capture the key numbers of 3 and 7: Texans + 9 vs. Colts, Raiders -2 at Jets, Falcons + 9 vs. Saints (note: my least favorite of the bunch), Cardinals + 9 vs. Rams and 49ers + 8.5 or + 9 vs. Bills. I usually stick to two- or three-team 6-point teasers, so mix and match those options according to your own handicapper. Best Bet: Pass, except for Lions in teasers (pool play: Lions 55/45 in ATS contests, but Bears around 67/33 in SU pools).
Bengals at Dolphins (-11)
Yes, the Dolphins are 7-4 and continue to play well whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa or Ryan Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup and just covered as 7.5-point road favorites at the Jets. And, yes, the Bengals are 2-8-1 and are without rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, but this line shouldn’t be double digits. The Bengals have been surprisingly competitive all year at 7-4 ATS and just covered in a 19-17 loss to the Giants. Brandon Allen was just 17-for-29 for 136 yards, but he also had some dropped passes. The Bengals should be able to stick around as the Dolphins will be content to get out with the win. Best Bet: Bengals + 11 (pool play: Bengals 75/25 in ATS contests, but Dolphins still 80/20 in SU pools with just a few tickets taking a shot at the outright upset).
Colts (-3) at Texans
The Texans are well-rested coming off their rout of the Lions on Thanksgiving, and they won the home meeting of last year’s home-and-home series with the division rival Colts, so I would normally love the home underdog here. However, this line comes up a little short for my liking, especially considering how good of a season the Colts are having despite their loss to the Titans on Sunday. Plus the Texans lost top receiver Will Fuller to a positive test — for old-fashioned, performance-enhancing drugs, not COVID-19. Having said all that, I’ll probably bite if the line gets bet up to 3.5. Best Bet: Pass, except for Texans in teasers (pool play: Texans 60/40 if getting + 3.5 in contests, but Colts 60/40 at -2.5 as well as 67/33 in SU contests).
Jaguars at Vikings (-9.5)
The Vikings looked dead in the water against the Panthers before rallying for a 28-27 win to stay in the NFC wild-card hunt at 5-6. It showed me that while they’re playing better than earlier in the season, they still shouldn’t be trusted to cover big numbers. They failed to cover as 3-point home favorites against the Panthers, and don’t forget they were coming off an embarrassing 31-28 loss to the Cowboys as lofty 7-point home chalk after barely beating the Bears 19-13 the previous Monday night. The Jaguars still stink at 1-10, but they’re a more respectable 5-6 ATS, and the offense looked better with quarterback Mike Glennon taking over as they pulled off the backdoor cover in a 27-25 loss to the Browns as 7-point dogs. I expect the Jaguars to stay close the whole game, but it’s nice to know they can rally with Glennon if needed. Best Bet: Jaguars + 9.5, though waiting to see if the public bets it to 10 (pool play: Jaguars 75/25 in ATS contests, but Vikings 80/20 in SU pools).
Raiders (-8) at Jets
I’m 3-2 ATS betting on the Jets this year, so I shouldn’t feel too bad when they lose like they did 20-3 to the Dolphins on Sunday. But, man, that was ugly to watch. At least I wasn’t among all those who bet the Raiders -3 vs. the Falcons in their uglier 43-6 loss. While I think it’s ridiculous that the same Raiders team is now laying more than a touchdown on the road, I can’t get myself to trust the Jets again. There’s a better chance that the Raiders bounce back from their embarrassing performance. Best Bet: Pass, except for Raiders in teasers (pool play: Jets 55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but Raiders in all SU pools).
Saints (-3) at Falcons
This line is sitting at Saints -3 as of this writing on Tuesday — though there are some signs it could go to -3.5 — and again that’s too short for me. The Falcons are certainly more competitive than they were before Dan Quinn was fired, but the Saints are among the top teams in the NFC, and I need more than a field goal to fade them with a straight bet. Besides, despite all the hype around Swiss-Army-Knife-turned-QB Taysom Hill, the defense has been carrying the Saints lately, and we just saw them shut down this Falcons offense two weeks ago in a 24-9 win. Best Bet: Pass, except Falcons possibly in teasers (pool play: Saints 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Browns at Titans (-5.5)
This is one of the best matchups in Week 13 with both teams at 8-3 and playoff-bound. The Browns are a little tempting at this price, but I like the Titans, my value bet at 40-1 to win the Super Bowl earlier this year, so I’m not looking to fade them with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry playing such great complementary football, as the coaches say. But I do love the Under in this game as both teams should rely on their great running games and keep the clock running. The Browns also get defensive end Myles Garrett back this week. Best Bet: Under 54 (pool play: Titans 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Giants at Seahawks (-10)
The Seahawks tend to play a lot of close games. Seattle’s defense has been more like the Legion of Gloom this season, allowing an NFL-worst 418.1 yards per game, as it lets teams stick around and/or get the backdoor cover like the Eagles did against them on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Giants defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points since Week 8. Their opponents since then have been Washington, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, but it’s still a confidence booster. I would prefer if Daniel Jones were able to play, but Colt McCoy can take what the defense gives him and keep the Giants in this game. Best Bet: Giants + 10 (pool play: Giants 75/25 in ATS contests — slightly lower if + 9.5 is used — though Seahawks still 90/10 in SU pools).
Rams (-3) at Cardinals
This is the third of four cases this week in which we have a home underdog of + 3. Home dogs were 6-3 ATS in Week 12, and it wasn’t hard for a lot of people to pass on the three losers: Lions, Jets and the QB-less Broncos. The Cardinals, my NFC dark-horse pick, have let me down a little as they’ve stumbled to 6-5, though still in the playoff hunt. I still feel they’re the right side here at home, though the Rams defense concerns me. Again, give me + 3.5 and I’m probably on board. As for the Over/Under, both teams are 8-3 with the Under as their totals have been inflated, so I’ll take the Under here as well. Best Bet: Under 48.5, plus Cardinals in teasers (pool play: Cardinals 55/45 in ATS contests — higher if offered + 3.5, though flipping to Rams at -2.5 — but Rams 60/40 in SU pools).
Eagles at Packers (-9.5)
The Eagles fell to 3-7-1 and out of first place in the NFC Least, but it seems odd that people are calling for coach Doug Pederson’s job less than three years after he led Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl win. I definitely think the Eagles are being underrated (they’re the best 3-7-1 team that I can remember) as they did rally to cover the 6.5-point closing line against the Seahawks on Monday night with their Hail Mary touchdown and 2-point conversion after losing in a rainstorm the prior week in Cleveland, so I didn’t downgrade much for that performance. Granted, quarterback Carson Wentz’s league-leading 19 turnovers is a constant concern, but I still don’t think the Packers, who are 8-3 but overrated in my book, are more than a touchdown better than the Eagles. Best Bet: Eagles + 9.5 or better (pool play: Eagles 67/33 in ATS contests, but Packers still 75/25 in SU pools, though taking some fliers on the Eagles to pull the outright upset).
Patriots at Chargers (pick-’em)
Is this the biggest coaching mismatch in the NFL? Gill Alexander summed up the conventional wisdom out there that you almost have to bet on the Patriots and Bill Belichick this week as they find ways to win while the Chargers and Anthony Lynn find ways to lose or not cover. I’m going to pass as I would actually love to bet the Chargers on talent alone, but I can’t pull the trigger on Lynn vs. Belichick. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 50/50 in all SU & ATS pools and just hoping the winner lands on a card where I connect the dots with the rest of my picks).
Broncos at Chiefs (-14)
I know it’s going to take some convincing to get readers to back the Broncos this week against the high-flying Chiefs, who won the first meeting 43-16 in Denver, especially after the Broncos’ ugly 31-3 loss to the Saints with no quarterbacks. But Drew Lock and the other QBs have been cleared to return and the Broncos have been competitive in most other games and can stay within two touchdowns of the Chiefs. Except for their first game against the Broncos and a win over the winless Jets, the Chiefs mostly let lesser teams stick around, as they’re only 6-5 ATS despite a 10-1 SU record. Best Bet: Broncos + 14 (pool play: Broncos 67/33 in ATS contests, but Chiefs still at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Washington at Steelers (-9.5)
This game was moved from Sunday to Monday (5 p.m. EST) after the Steelers-Ravens game was pushed back to this Wednesday. Most books have it off the board, but Westgate and Circa have posted the Steelers -9.5, which sounds about right. Washington’s defense had me thinking I might jump in on the dog, but I’m just not sure Alex Smith & Co. can do enough against Pittsburgh’s equally strong defense to keep up with Ben Roethlisberger & Co., so I’ll pass unless the line gets steamed into double digits, and + 10 probably wouldn’t do it. Best Bet: Pass, but check our updated VSiN Best Bets column on Saturday in case Wednesday night’s game or any line adjustments have me changing my approach (pool play: Washington 55/45 in ATS contests — higher if getting + 10.5 — but Steelers still 80/20 in SU pools).
Bills (-3) vs. 49ers, Glendale, Ariz.
Santa Clara County (Calif.) has shut down contact sports for at least three weeks, so the 49ers basically are moving everyone and everything to the Phoenix area. I’m sure it’s a big pain, but the Bills are also inconvenienced, so I think it’s a wash, and I like the 49ers here as short underdogs. The 49ers keep getting healthier, as they showed with their upset of the Rams on Sunday. The Bills are having a great season, but they tend to let teams stick around. In Week 3, they let the Rams rally before pulling out the victory. And the 49ers have swept the Rams, so that’s another reason I think this is a toss-up with the betting edge going to to 49ers. Best Bet: 49ers + 3, plus 49ers in teasers (pool play: 49ers 75/25 in ATS contests and even 55/45 in SU pools, which is against what I’ve written before that I like to go all-in on my Monday night picks in SU pools, but this is more of a toss-up).
Cowboys at Ravens (Off)
This game was moved to Tuesday after the Ravens-Steelers Week 12 game was moved to Wednesday. The line has been off the board at all books with so much uncertainty surrounding all the positive tests in the Baltimore locker room. But the advance line was Ravens -7.5, and we’d expect that to be the line as long as Lamar Jackson is cleared to play. My first impression is that, even though the Cowboys disappointed on Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t be able to resist taking them if this line is more than a touchdown. Again, check back for the VSiN Best Bets column on Saturday for my updated take on this game after seeing Wednesday’s game and an actual betting line. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys probably 60/40 in ATS contests, though Ravens 75/25 in SU pools, though check all of your pools to see if any use this as the last game of Week 13 since we have advance notice of it already being played after the Monday nighter).